The question of "how fast is fast enough" has plagued me since VIA's tiny EPIA-M10000 platform arrived at my doorstep in what seemed like far too small a box to hold a motherboard and CPU. Just 17 cm square, the EPIA-M10000 is a midget (sorry, little person) among small form factor platforms. The fact that the board features a new revision of VIA's notoriously slow C3 processor almost makes it hard to take the EPIA-M10000 seriously, but I'm trying to be open-minded.
With a new "Nehemiah" core C3 processor running at a cool 1GHz, a full-speed FPU, support for DDR SDRAM, and a hardware MPEG-2 decoder, the EPIA-M10000 at least has the potential to be fast enough for mainstream desktops and even home theater PCs. Read on as I explore the features and performance of VIA's newest Mini-ITX platform to find out just how much power this pint-size platform is packing.
What's the EPIA-M10000 all about? Let's take a quick look at the spec sheet.
|CPU||1GHz VIA C3/EDEN (Nehemiah core)|
|Chipset||VIA ProSavage CLE266|
|North bridge||VIA VT8623|
|South bridge||VIA VT8235|
|PCI slots||1 32-bit/33MHz|
|Memory||1 184-pin DIMM sockets
Maximum of 1GB of DDR266/200 SDRAM
|Storage I/O||Floppy disk
2 channels ATA/133
|Legacy ports||1 PS/2 keyboard, 1 PS/2 mouse, Serial and Parallel ports|
2 USB 2.0/1.1 ports
2 additional USB 2.0/1.1 ports via PCI expansion header
|Firewire||2 IEEE 1394 Firewire ports via PCI expansion header|
|Audio||VIA 6-channel "Vinyl Audio" (VT8235/VT1616 codec)
analog front, rear, and center output
shared mic and line-in inputs
digital S/PDIF output
|Video||Integrated CastleRock graphics with MPEG-2 decoder
VGA and S-Video outputs
|Ethernet||10/100 Fast Ethernet via VT6103 PHY|
|Bus dividers||DRAM: 100 or 133MHz|
|Voltages||DRAM: default, 2.6-2.8V in 1V increments|
|Monitoring||Voltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring|
The EPIA-M10000 is a veritable orgy of integrated peripherals, which may not seem especially impressive to those used to seeing high-end enthusiast-oriented motherboards packing in nearly every integrated feature under the sun. What's important to remember here is that the EPIA-M10000 integrates all of its peripherals into significantly less board real estate than most motherboards.
Better than Ezra
I'll be covering each of the EPIA-M10000's integrated peripherals in finer detail over the following pages, but before I get into that, I should take a moment to address what's probably the least familiar element of the EPIA-M10000: its 1GHz C3 "Nehemiah" processor, which comes in an EBGA packaging that's soldered right onto the board.
AMD and Intel have the lion's share of the PC processor market, but VIA's been stubbornly producing its C3 processors for a while now. Of course, the performance of its previous C3 processors, which were based on the "Ezra" core, left much to be desired.
Lucky for the EPIA-M10000, VIA has a new version of the C3 dubbed "Nehemiah" that promises to address the performance issues of previous C3 processors. The new Nehemiah core carries forward Ezra's 4-way associative 64KB L1 data and instruction caches, and its exclusive 64KB L2 cache with 16-way associativity. Like Ezra, Nehemiah is built using 0.13-micron process technology on a die just 52mm2, but where do the two chips differ?
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